The Great Divide Trail From Sunset Pass to Boulder Creek Section E

This backpacking / photography expedition is a continuation from last year. From Sunset Pass to Boulder Creek through Cataract Creek, Brazeau Creek, White Goat Wilderness Area.

Angelito de Jesus

6 min read

As Chris, Ronel, and I embarked on the continuation of our exploration along Section E of the Great Divide Trail, the echoes of last August's adventure lingered in the air. Like any true expedition, our journey was poised to be a test of endurance, resilience, and the camaraderie that bonds fellow adventurers. With unpredictable elements, inherent risks, and the need for vigilant decision-making, our commitment to safety underscored every step we took.

Setting out from the Sunset Trailhead at the early hour of 7:03 on the morning of September 1, a subtle calm followed the just-stopped rain, signaling the beginning of our odyssey. The familiarity of bushwalking, reminiscent of the previous year's expedition, hinted at the challenges and rewards that lay ahead.

The trek unfolded, revealing a landscape that, while lacking the grandeur of extraordinary mountain peaks, possessed its own unique allure. Progressing through the hours, the odometer of our adventure marked 23.05 km, the clock ticking away 12 hours, and the elevation gaining an impressive 2226 meters. As we reached a resting point near a babbling creek, the time had come to pause, reflect, and recharge.

The trail, at times rough and requiring some bushwhacking, eventually led us to the boundary of White Goat Wilderness. A mandatory registration marked our passage into this untamed realm. Bear scats and telltale signs of diggings reminded us that we shared this vast wilderness with its original inhabitants. We pressed on, making noise to announce our presence, navigating the challenging terrain as we moved further into the heart of the wilderness.

Day 3 of our Great Divide Trail adventure brought unexpected challenges as the elements took on an unforgiving tone. The night was accompanied by a relentless howl of wind, and the temperature steadily dropped, foretelling the impending arrival of unfavorable weather. Overhead, rain clouds thickened, and the ominous prediction of snow loomed.

A collective decision was made, born out of necessity and a keen sense of preparedness. We discussed the plan to navigate our way to highway 93, where we'd hitchhike to parking B to retrieve my car. From there, the intention was to pick up Chris and Ronel at Nigel Pass Trailhead. The strategy seemed sound, considering the unpredictable conditions that lay ahead.

Upon reaching the end of the tree line, the map's guidance waned, leading to some trail blazing. Undeterred, our lead trekker Chris, displaying both leadership and pragmatism, decided to deviate from the trail, climbing to reach the junction of Goat Wilderness and Banff National Park. This decision, while unconventional, saved precious time.

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Visit Great Divide Trail Continues photo gallery for more coverage of this experience

David Harrap our trail angel super strong at age 79

With tents pitched and a communal atmosphere settling in, our tired bodies found respite. The shared moments of laughter and quiet reflection were punctuated by bites of sustenance, fueling not just our bodies but the camaraderie that thrives in the face of shared challenges. The creek's gentle melody provided a soothing backdrop to our well-deserved rest, a harmonious interlude in the symphony of our expedition.

As we gazed up at the vast canvas of the night sky, the challenges of the trek were met with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that the journey had only just begun. Our trio, bound by a shared love for exploration and a resilient spirit, eagerly anticipated what the Great Divide Trail had yet to reveal. In the heart of the wilderness, under the vast expanse of stars, we found solace and strength, ready to face the trail's next chapter.

Day 2 of our Great Divide Trail adventure unfolded with the promise of new challenges and breathtaking landscapes. After a quick morning bite at 7:48 am, we efficiently packed our gears, ready to tackle the day's trek through the expansive wilderness.

The trail led us through dense, forested terrain, presenting both the beauty of nature and the hurdles that come with it. River crossings, a defining feature of the day, added an element of excitement. The first rushing river tested our resolve, lacking rocks or trees for stable footing. Chris and Ronel, undeterred, waded through with their shoes on. As for me, the risk of slipping on the fallen tree seemed less favorable than the discomfort of soaked boots. Reluctantly, I joined the water-crossing brigade, my boots and socks paying the price for our onward journey.

Climbing to an elevation of 1115 meters, we reached the junction and descended to 726 meters at Boulder Creek. The trail unfolded before us, revealing a captivating landscape that stretched as far as the eye could see. Having already trekked 21.43 km over 11 hours and 44 minutes, we found ourselves surrounded by the pristine beauty of nature. The decision was unanimous – it was time to call it a day and set up camp near Brazeau Creek.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow over the wilderness, we found solace in the midst of this untouched environment. Satisfied and awe-inspired, our campsite near Brazeau Creek became a sanctuary in the heart of the untamed, a testament to the rewards of pushing boundaries and embracing the unpredictability of the wild

However, the unexpected grace of fate intervened. In a stroke of serendipity, a fellow trekker, a seasoned hiker of ripe old age who had been on the trail for the past ten days, caught up with us. As we befriended him, the conversation unfolded, revealing that his destination aligned perfectly with our needs. He was heading back home to Jasper, and, to our jubilation, it was precisely on the way to where I needed to go.

In a heartwarming display of camaraderie and the unspoken bond that connects hikers, he gladly agreed to provide me with a ride. This chance encounter with a kindred spirit not only spared us from the uncertainties of hitchhiking but also became a source of shared stories and memories. As we traversed the winding roads, he regaled us with tales of his own adventures, and we reciprocated with the narratives of our Great Divide Trail escapade.

The car ride became more than just a means of transportation; it became a serendipitous connection between kindred souls bound by the love of exploration. We exchanged information, grateful for the shared journey and the benevolence of a fellow adventurer. As we continued on our way, the wind and snow may have persisted, but the warmth of human connection and the unexpected assistance of a trail companion transformed the challenges of Day 3 into a tale of serendipity and shared camaraderie

Chris our lead trekker with Mount Coleman in the background